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Blue Jackets Replace Assistant Coach Who Declined To Get COVID Vaccine

The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Tampa Bay Lightning played in an arena empty of fans during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete
Fans wait to enter Nationwide Arena for a Blue Jackets scrimmage.

A new assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets chose not to get a COVID vaccine, so the team announced on Monday they will replace him on the bench.

Sylvain Lefebvre recently started as an assistant coach for the Blue Jackets but because he decided not to get vaccinated, the team said he will not be able to perform the duties required of him, given current National Hockey League protocols which required vaccination to coach.

The Blue Jackets have hired Steve McCarthy as its new assistant coach. McCarthy has spent five years as an associate coach for development team Cleveland Monsters, Columbus' top minor league team, and played eight years as a National Hockey League defenseman.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said they are disappointed but respect the decision for Lefebvre is personal.

"While we are disappointed, we respect that this decision is a personal one for Sylvain and wish him well," Kekalainen said. "We feel fortunate to have an outstanding coach join our club in Steve McCarthy, who has played in this league, won championships as a player and been an important member of our hockey operations department as an assistant coach in Cleveland."

The team will start the season under new head coach Brad Larson who took over from John Tortorella.